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Monday, 16 May 2016

Game of Thrones S6E4: Book of the Stranger.

Game of Thrones
Series 6, Episode 4
Book of the Stranger.

Wow, we actually got quite a lot of plot movement in this episode. That's - gratifying, not least because we're nearing the halfway point of the series now, which is also the point where my requirements for episodes get much, much harsher. Notably, most of the plot is focused around Castle Black, Meereen, and Vaes Dothrak, with smaller bits of plot happening at Winterfell, the Iron Islands, and King's Landing - in fact, several storylines, such as Arya's Braavos storyline and Bran's storyline - don't even get a look in.

At Castle Black, Sansa arrives with Brienne, joining up with Jon, Davos, and Melisandre. Their reunion quickly sours, though, as Jon receives a threatening letter from Ramsay Bolton, and must face the possibility of another war. Meanwhile, at Winterfell, Ramsay speaks with Osha. Theon returns to the Iron Islands, only to find that his sister isn't pleased to see him, and that there is an impending Kingsmoot. In King's Landing, the High Sparrow attempts to wear down Margaery's resolve, while Cersei and Jaime form an uneasy alliance with Olenna and Kevan. In Essos, at Meereen, Tyrion enters diplomatic negotiations with the Wise Masters of Yunkai and Astapor, drawing the ire of the freed slaves of Meereen. In Vaes Dothrak, Jorah and Daario arrive to rescue Daenerys, but she has other ideas.

We'll start with Meereen this week, because it's where I have the most problems. Look, okay, the idea of people having to do the unthinkable and take a diplomatic approach with the Masters, potentially leaving thousands of people in slavery for years to prevent hundreds of thousands of slaves over the next few centuries - that's an interesting one. But my word, my word, the unfortunate implications of rich, white Tyrion talking over poor, POC ex-slaves Missandei and Grey Worm, using them as props to back up his arguments and generally ignoring everything they say were massively uncomfortable for me. Like, on an in-universe level, rich foreign nobleman Tyrion has barely encountered the Masters before, whereas Missandei and Grey Worm are extremely familiar with them and know more about how they work than he does, so that's already uncomfortable. But on an out-of-universe level, we also have a white dude being incredibly condescending towards two POCs.


Possibly this is leading up to some kind of grand fall where Tyrion finds out with horrible consequences that Missandei and Grey Worm were right, but I doubt it, because Benioff and Weiss don't like having Tyrion make mistakes.

Vaes Dothrak, meanwhile, is much more satisfying, giving us another Daenerys Wrecks Everything Around Her moments and giving her a new Dothraki horde (or every Dothraki horde?), which you'll recall is the one thing I said would make me forgive this storyline for being boring and pointless. Presumably, she'll be returning to Meereen in the next few episodes, and may have some words to say to Tyrion regarding slavery.

Again, it's a bit skiffy to have a bunch of people of colour kneeling in supplication to a triumphant white woman who just murdered their leaders, but what's new there, I guess.

(Also, Jorah is clearly not long for this world, thank god.)

Cersei's understandably not happy about a lot of things.

Over in Westeros again, King's Landing is surprisingly refreshing. The High Sparrow is continuing his Evil Geography Teacher schtick, but seeing Cersei and Jaime approach Olenna and Kevan with a pretty reasonable plan for getting Margaery out safely is nice. Obviously, it'll all go wrong, and Cersei might actually be planning on that, but I really do hope that her desire to see Margaery safe is genuine, and born from concern for Tommen.

I might be being naive there.

The Iron Islands are also fine, for the single scene they show up in. Not much to really say there. Winterfell made me roll my eyes a little, as another character bites the dust (really thinning out your supporting cast there, huh, Game of Thrones) in a pretty unnecessary scene.

All of which leaves us with Castle Black. Jon and Sansa's reunion is a genuinely emotional moment, given that they haven't seen each other since the earliest episodes of the first series, and Ramsay's letter manages to ramp up the tension well, being pretty unhinged and threatening. This episode also threw into sharp relief how much Sansa has changed, though, as she takes a very Robb-esque approach of urging Jon to fight to retake Winterfell.

Oh, hey, it's this guy.

While Jon has seemingly decided to retake Winterfell by the end of the episode, he's faced with the problem that the wildling army is outnumbered two-and-a-half-to-one. Although, the wildling army does have giants to even the odds. Also, Melisandre, now. Not that it really matters, since we get a short scene in the Vale setting up Petyr to take the Knights of the Vale to Castle Black, and since the Vale's army is still just as large as it was in the first series, it's fair to say that Ramsay's going to be crushed.

So, that was episode four. A pretty good episode, if you ask me, and if we take a look at the preview, apparently next week will apparently involve Petyr arriving at Castle Black, Arya continuing her training, Tyrion and Varys encountering a Red Priestess, and Bran accidentally stumbling on the Night King while dreamwalking. Well, that all sounds like good stuff.

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